TEXT 1 ... EZRA 2:61-63 ... SEPARATION
AND THE PRIESTS:
The people of Israel, a few of them at least, are leaving
They are returning home to Israel!
The seventy years of "captivity," judgment for their sins,
are now ended!
Just under 50,000, a meager number from the whole nation, are
going back "home."
The journey of 700 miles will take several months to
The people of course must be carefully numbered and, in some
cases, their lineage verified.
Among those, Ezra 2:61-63 reports ...
"And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah,
the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a
wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called
after their name: these sought their register among those
that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found:
therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood. And
the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the
most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and
Let's look at a few facts about this Text.
It was particularly important, really essential, that God's
Men have the right heritage. Their "papers" must be in
And, after so many years, it seems some of the future priests
of Israel had become negligent in their registration.
"Habiah" means "Jehovah has hidden." His children's
"papers" would have been critically important because he is not
mentioned anywhere else in all the Bible.
"Koz" means "nimble." His descendants might have been a
little too nimble or lax when it came to their heritage!
One of these folks is mentioned in Nehemiah as a helper in
rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. See Nehemiah 3:4 and
21. Here we see an example of a man being approved for
wall construction, but not approved for the priesthood!
There is a vital difference!
Then the children of Barzillai, whose name means "iron."
Yet these men took the name of their wives' forefather!
Maybe that's being a little too much influenced by a woman.
Priests must have strong convictions and identities! Not too
easily influenced, even by women. (Remember Ahab!)
Do not misunderstand me. Barzillai was a great man, but
not the real fathers to these priests.
The noun "register" is "kathab" in Hebrew and means "writing"
or even "scripture." Somewhere once existed documents
proving their ancestry, but they had lost them!
The verbal adjective "polluted" is "gaal" and means defiled
or stained! As some of you can tell, the word "gaal" is
akin to the noun for "redeemer!" These men despised their
identity ... or at least were very careless with it.
And the expression "were reckoned by genealogy" is unique.
It means "to sprout!" It pictures some kind of a family
"tree" situation! To enroll by pedigree!
These men were disqualified from serving the Lord!
At least until the Tirshatha (Governor) could determine the
next course of action on their behalf!
The verb "put from" has the idea of repudiation!
They could not even fellowship at table with the other Men of
Their verdicts would be suspended if, when a High Priest with
Urim (meaning "lights") and Thummim (meaning "perfection") arose
... and God said otherwise.
The Urim and Thummin were two stones that could be drawn
randomly from a pouch behind the High Priests' Breastplate ...
to indicate God's Will in a matter.
Here we have a group of men who got lazy when it came to the
assurance of their "calling" and "service" for God!
And such slothfulness cost them their ministries!
Men of God, beware!
Don't lose sight of your "papers!"
Be sure you are saved!
Be sure of your Call to preach!
And review your testimony regularly!
--- Dr. Mike Bagwell
TEXT 2 ... EZRA 4:1-3 ... SEPARATION
AND THE NEIGHBORS:
The Jews have arrived back in the Holy Land!
The seventy year's captivity have ended.
The Temple must be rebuilt. Worship of Jehovah God is
Then it happened.
"Now when the adversaries of Judah and
Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the
temple unto the LORD God of Israel; then they came to Zerubbabel,
and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us
build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do
sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur,
which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the
rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye
have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but
we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as
king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us."
As soon as the Israelites began to build the new Temple, they
had an alluring "offer" from the neighbors!
The inhabitants of the land, ungodly to the core, wanted "to
build" with the Jews!
But their very lifestyle was filled with idolatry and
perversion and wickedness. Of course they could say
"we seek your God, as ye do; and we
do sacrifice unto him" because they worshipped every god
and goddess imaginable! Adding the God of the Jews to their
"list" was no problem! Their spiritual condition is
described in 2nd Kings 17:24-41. It was bad!
This practice is called "syncretism." It literally
means "with" ("syn") the Cretians, the notoriously ungodly
people of Crete! Mixing things together to get a
hodgepodge of politically correct doctrine! Such
blending of error with truth precipitated the fall of the
Northern Kingdom of Israel, bringing about their Assyrian
This is still being done today! Many religions and
churches now take a bit of Baptist doctrine and mix it with some
charismatic practice and add to that a dose of Catholicism and a
dash of mysticism or Mormonism and so forth! Creating one's own
We had better get back to living by Paul's great maxim from
Romans 3:4. "Let God be true, but
every man a liar." Amen!
But these ancient yet modernistic liberals (the inhabitants
of Canaan) heard a resounding NO from the Jewish leaders!
They said: "Ye have nothing to do
with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves
together will build unto the LORD God of Israel."
This is old-fashioned Bible separation, folks!
This is "classic" obedience to the principles of Scripture.
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with
unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with
unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"
And "Wherefore come out from among them,
and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean
thing; and I will receive you." 2nd Corinthians
The leaders of Israel based their godly work on two other
facts as well.
First, it was apparently essential they they build
"together." The word "yachad" means "in union" or "alike."
The largest obstacle to the Temple project was not the carnal
people of the land, although no cooperation with them could be
allowed! It was rather some sort of division splitting the
people of God into factions and cliques!
They must build together!
Then it was important to obey the King who had authority over
their work! After all, He was the financier of the
By the way, there is a King, a Lord, a mighty God over our
work too! And He pays our bills too!
We must please Him in every area!
And, having separated themselves from these syncretistic
people, the work progressed to the Glory of God!
Purity is important in the Book of Ezra. It just may be
the overall theme of the whole ten chapter Text!
By the way, did you notice that these "neighbors" were ... in
the very first word of today's Text ... called "adversaries!"
Adversaries ... saying they wanted to help!
Also notice that, once refused, these unsaved rebels fought
the Temple and the Jews furiously!
Separation may invite further misunderstanding and opposition
from the enemy, but God must be obeyed at any cost.
--- Dr. Mike Bagwell
TEXT 3 ... EZRA 6:20-22 ... SEPARATION
AND THE NATIONS:
Finally the Temple is completed!
Shortly thereafter the Passover was observed by the
"For the priests and the Levites were
purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the
passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their
brethren the priests, and for themselves. And the children of
Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as
had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the
heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat,
and kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for
the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king
of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of
the house of God, the God of Israel." Ezra 6:20-22
Here we see the Bible "pattern" for authentic godly
"separation" from sin.
The Passover alone is a great picture of Jesus Christ our
The innocent Lamb portrays Him.
The shedding of the blood does too!
Even their eating the roast lamb to gain strength for the
work ahead typifies that even now, as Christians, we draw
stamina and resolve to live for Christ and walk by faith as we
think back upon the Cross and ponder its manifold beauty.
And, of course, the blood of the lamb spared the firstborn
children from death! So does Jesus' sacrificial and vicarious
death on Golgotha deliver us from an eternal Hell!
No wonder those who handled it had to be "pure." The
word means clean or purged.
Also notice that all God's people could participate.
The "groups" are listed as: "all the
children of the captivity," then
"their brethren the priests," and
"for themselves." That last phrase means the priests who
were themselves officiating at the Passover Event.
But ... look!
Another group is mentioned too!
And "all such as had separated
themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the
land" were included as well! These are people who
have followed God ... but who had not been taken to Babylon!
They had remained in the land. But, when the Jews
returned, these folks renounced sin and fastened themselves to
Yes, one requirement for participation in this extremely
critical time of worship was "separation" from the sins of the
The verb "separated" translates "badal" and means "to divide
or sever!" To make a distinction!
A similar wording is found in Nehemiah 10:28. It reads:
"And the rest of the people, the priests,
the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and
all they that had
separated themselves from the people of the lands unto
the law of God ...."
The first Bible use of "badal" is in Genesis 1:4 where God
"divided" the light from the darkness.
Separation involves saying NO to sin!
It has a negative side ... rejecting the ungodly practices of
wicked men and women!
Then, immediately our Text continues, speaking of those who
"had separated themselves unto them from
the filthiness of the heathen of the land,
to seek the LORD God of
Israel!" This is positive!
The negative part of separation ...
"had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the
heathen of the land" is directly followed by a positive
aspect of separation ... "to seek the LORD
God of Israel!"
The verb "seek" is "darash" in Hebrew and means "to search or
enquire or investigate or consult." The well used Old
Testament phrase "to enquire of the Lord" is built upon this
This is a positive, love-induced response!
Hating sin because one loves the Lord!
I'll say this. The love of God is so powerful and so
wonderful it should always dwarf and expel any kind of so-called
love for the world! 1st John 2:15 pretty well summarizes
what needs to be said here: "Love not the
world, neither the things that are in the world. If any
man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
Also it looks to me like the phrase
"and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the
filthiness of the heathen of the land" just might allow
the inclusion of a few Gentiles! Those people who had
renounced wickedness and separated themselves from the sins of
their culture! Having repented and believed in the God of
God saves sinners ... no matter their racial or educational
or financial or social background!
What lessons this short Text affords us!
And ... upon these "separated" people (separated from
the world and to the Lord) ... God poured three manifold
categories of blessings!
"For the LORD had made them joyful, and
turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen
their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel."
God gave them "joy." In Hebrew "Samach" means "to
brighten up" with glee!
Also God blessed them with favor and finances from the
powerful King of Assyria! Remember,
"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as
the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will."
Then God "strengthened their hands" for the work! This
verb, "chazaq," means "to harden or to prevail or to be stout or
to encourage!" One of the most often used expressions in
the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah deals with God's Hand being upon
His workers! For example, "Then I
told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me."
Let me close with these words: The more separated from
sin and unto the Lord one becomes ... the more he or she will
enjoy God's good blessings!
Of that we can be sure!
--- Dr. Mike Bagwell
TEXT 4 ... EZRA 8:24-30 ... SEPARATION
AND THE MONEY:
A more complete exposition of this Text can be studied by
visiting our "Ezra
There, in detail, each verse is analyzed.
Here simply notice that on a second journey from Babylon to
Jerusalem Ezra himself leads the people.
They were carrying tons of precious treasure! Gold and
silver and copper and vessels were among the sacred cargo.
This was to be used in the Lord's work. In value these treasures
were worth well over one hundred million dollars in today's
Yet Ezra immediately noticed that no priests were available
to help transport the valuables.
He "separated" twelve such men and commissioned them to
safely conduct the load to Jerusalem.
Then the separated men, all sons of Aaron, were told by Ezra:
"Ye are holy unto the LORD; the
vessels are holy also; and the silver and the gold are
a freewill offering unto the LORD God of your fathers."
This word "holy" is "qodesh" and means "dedicated,
consecrated or set apart" unto God.
Both the gold and silver and vessels and remaining gifts were
They could be used for nothing but the work of the Lord, in
service and worship of Jehovah!
But the men who handle holy vessels must themselves be holy
This means they had been been sprinkled by the blood of an
innocent lamb, a picture of Jesus' Death on the Cross!
They had also been anointed with special olive oil, symbolic of
the Holy Spirit! Then they had carefully
bathed properly, dressed in accordance to God's standards, and
touched no dead thing lately. They could have consumed no strong
drink either. It also means that their hearts were pure
They were "ceremonially" clean, as the Jews would have said.
This is an aspect of separation too.
Sin and filth and immorality ... practiced everywhere in
those days ... had been left far behind by these godly men.
They had additionally added into their lives ... clean living
and fervent love for God!
When one extracts some evil from his heart ... he must
immediately replace it with something good, something godly!
These priests had done so!
Holy men for holy work!
Listen to Isaiah preach basically the same sermon, only a
couple of centuries earlier: "Depart
ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing;
go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the
vessels of the LORD." Isaiah 52:11
That's also why, in the New Testament, God gives certain
basic requirements or qualifications for a Pastor!
Holy hearts and holy lives for those who handle the Holy
Ezra is a Book of separation!
--- Dr. Mike Bagwell
TEXT 5 ... EZRA 10:10 ... SEPARATION
In Ezra 9:1-2 we discover a sin that had overtaken many of
the Israelites. "Now when these
things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of
Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated
themselves from the people of the lands, doing according
to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the
Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the
Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken
of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that
the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of
those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath
been chief in this trespass."
They had intermarried with the ungodly Canaanite population
of the land.
These people worshipped other gods and would have been a
detriment to the spiritual progress of the Jews.
Ezra was upset by such compromise.
"And when I heard this thing, I rent my
garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and
of my beard, and sat down astonied." Ezra 9:3
Having prayed a prayer of confession and repentance for his
country, Ezra reviewed the Scriptures concerning "separation"
from the people of heathen lands.
"Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying,
The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land
with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their
abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with
their uncleanness. Now therefore give not your daughters unto
their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor
seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be
strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an
inheritance to your children for ever." Ezra
After calling an assembly of the wise elders of the land, a
decision was reached about these "wrong" marriages.
"Now therefore let us make a
covenant with our God to
put away all the wives, and such as are born of them,
according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble
at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to
the law." Ezra 10:3
Look at this!
Forced divorces were on the horizon! "Then
arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all
Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And
they sware." Ezra 10:5
The Israelites all were summoned to Jerusalem and ...
"Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto
them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to
increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession
unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and
separate yourselves from
the people of the land, and from the strange wives."
The people all agreed! "Then all
the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou
hast said, so must we do." Ezra 10:12
Then, of the guilty parties themselves, this is said.
"Let now our rulers of all the
congregation stand, and
let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come
at appointed times, and with them the elders of every
city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God
for this matter be turned from us." Ezra 10:14
The offending men agreed. "And
they gave their hands
that they would put away their wives; and being
guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their
trespass." Ezra 10:19
Sadder yet ... "and some of them
had wives by whom they had children." (Ezra 10:44)
In fact, that's the last verse in the whole Book of Ezra.
Separation was to them so important ... that wrong marriages
had to be dissolved!
But keep in mind that these marriages, these unequal yokes,
were very dangerous indeed! They were the equivalent of
spiritual suicide really!
The "godly seed" of David was apt to be polluted, destroying
the royal seed through which Messiah Jesus would be born!
These heathen women were ungodly and followers of heathen
As such, they ... by Mosaic Law ... were supposed to be tried
and, if found guilty, slain! "If thy
brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter,
or the wife of thy bosom,
or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee
secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou
hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; namely, of the
gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto
thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth
even unto the other end of the earth; thou shalt not
consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye
pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal
him: but thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first
upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the
people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die;
because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy
God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house
of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no
more any such wickedness as this is among you."
Better to divorce these women and allow them to return home
... than to stone them to death. In that sense Ezra's plan
was one of mercy!
Obviously this practice, if continued and allowed to broaden,
would again lead Israel to abandon Jehovah God. That was
the sin that led to the Babylonian Captivity in the first place!
See what terrible consequences the sin of compromise
introduces into human lives! What tragedy and sadness!
And also see what importance holiness is given in the life of
a godly nation!
"Righteousness exalteth a nation: but
sin is a reproach to any people." Proverbs 14:34
Remember, in God's eyes "idolatry" is spiritual adultery!
--- Dr. Mike Bagwell